In yet another act of brutal violence against women, a 50-year-old woman was stripped in public and her 12-year-old daughter was beaten in Moza Bair Band, a little village near Sultan city on Sunday, in a bid to settle a family feud. Such incidents of violence on women seem to be on the increase, say observers, who add that the police usually side with the culprits as seems to be the case in this incident.
So far the police had been unhelpful to the victims. What is worse is that only two members of the gang that assaulted the women have been apprehended till now, because police have allegedly succumbed to political pressure.
The incident occurred early on Sunday morning, when a group of 14 men led by locals Safdar and Mirza approached Allah Wasai and her young daughter Ashraf Mai as they were working in their fields, witnesses said.
They were seeking to take revenge on Allah Wasai’s family because her son, Saddam, allegedly had illicit relations with Safdar’s young daughter, Fatima.
Safdar and Mirza and their accomplices captured the mother and the daughter at around 9 am and stripped the mother naked, beating both relentlessly.
During the fray, Allah Wasai’s daughter managed to escape and ran away from the scene, begging passersby to help her mother who, she said, was being beaten to death.
According to locals, Allah Wasai was beaten continuously for three hours in front of a large group of onlookers who did nothing to help the woman. “This is torture,” said a local resident, visibly shaken. “About 100 people were gathered around, watching as the woman was stripped and beaten. I came forward and said, ‘Give her some clothes, for God’s sake’.”
When the police were finally summoned to the scene they took Allah Wasai and her daughter to the local police station and then dropped them off to the hospital, said Altaf, the officer in charge of the investigation. A medical examination has not yet been conducted.
When asked whether the police had ensured that the women were given a proper medical examination, he retorted that it was not the police officer’s job to guarantee that a check up had taken place. Altaf refused to answer further questions.
Locals said they do not have any faith in the police or in the doctor who took Allah Wasai into his care, as they alleged that both the police and the doctor had been bribed by local influential people.
The police at Sultan police station have registered a case under section 354 of the penal code, but the victims maintain that the police have not registered the case under clauses that correspond to the crimes the gang committed.
Ghulam Mustafa, Allah Wasai’s husband, appealed to the authorities to take action on his wife’s case.
“No action has been taken against my wife’s attackers. There is a lot of political pressure on the people here,” he said. Near tears, Mustafa added that he had spent a lot of time at the hospital in Sultan city and at the police station, but could not get the police to mobilise their forces in any effective manner. “The people involved are land owners,” Mustafa said. “They have a lot of political backing. We are poor people, we can’t do anything.”
After the assault began receiving more attention in the public the police did manage to apprehend two suspects Akbar and Jamil. The rest of the attackers, included the alleged instigators Safdar and Mirza, are still at large.
This incident comes just a week after a report by the Aurat Foundation on violence against women was released, which stated that crimes against women had increased by 13 per cent in 2009. The most crimes against women were reported to have taken place in the Punjab, said the report.
Umme-Laila Azhar of the Aurat Foundation condemned the incident and confirmed that violent incidents of a similar nature seemed to be increasing rather than decreasing.
She linked crimes against women to several factors including poverty. According to Azhar, the general population is growing increasingly frustrated at their worsening economic condition and men are taken their anger out on women, who are treated as commodities.
She also blamed lax media regulation policies for the upward trend in crime. “The media widens the distance between the haves and the have-nots,” she said. She said no policies had been implemented to make the media more sensitive so as not to create resentment between different segments of society.
Commenting on the frequent use of women as tools to gain retribution, she said: “This is a feudal mindset.” She said education could help end this practice, and conceded that in the interim, ‘influential’ people will still have the power to influence the police and other authorities.
Meanwhile the victim’s family, who have appealed to the Chief Minister of Punjab to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice, wants speedy action on the case.
“I appeal to you, I appeal to everyone…” said Mustafa. “How can anybody allow such atrocities to take place?”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2010.